Friday, November 20, 2009

Feelings about Rexville

On Monday, Oct. 26th, I sat at Heathrow Airport waiting for my connecting flight to Aleppo, Syria and, hoping for a semblance of normalcy, worked on the NY Times crossword puzzle. My brain was filled with lumpy cotton after a night of flying and the shock of hearing that my 92 year old father had suffered a serious brain hemorrhage and lapsed into a deep coma. As I plodded through the easiest puzzle of the week, I saw a clue for COMA and thought: What a strange coincidence! My next thought was to post a comment about this happenstance on Rex's blog . I didn't stop to process whether it was appropriate to do so... in my addled state, my comment simply passed the central posting criterion--relevance to the puzzle!

I truly did not expect the response I got. By the time I boarded the next plane, Rex himself had sent me a personal e-mail expressing his support and several of the Rexites had included words of support in their posts. When I arrived in Aleppo, I was no longer able to see the blog-- as far as I can tell, all of Blogger is blocked in Syria. But several friends from Rex' blog communicated with me by e-mail with good wishes. And the wonderful Andrea wrote to tell me that there were many comments on the blog expressing support!

During the ensuing week, as my dad lay comatose, I struggled to no avail with the medical system, trying to explain that my father had a living will in the US, and had requested to be allowed to die naturally should he be hit by a catastrophic illness. This was deemed inhumane... and with several tubes inserted into him, my father eventually awoke, paralyzed and unable to communicate except for an occasional word. And in spite of some motor improvements, he remained in this highly debilitated state two weeks later, as I embarked on my journey home to the US.

As I fight sadness, deep anxiety about his suffering and an overwhelming sense of helplessness about the entire experience, there are two forces that give me solace-- abundant evidence of the great love and respect in which my father is held, and the amazing support I received, not only from family and old friends, but from my newly found community of friends from Rexville!

Throughout my absence, several members of that community commented on Rex's blog, left a comment on my blog, sent me e-mails or sent a note via Andrea. I will not name names, lest I forget someone, but I am so immeasurably grateful to everyone! And Andrea-- what a first class human being she is! She wrote repeatedly and managed to be supportive and entertaining at once-- in the midst of my mess, she made me smile and even laugh on several occasions!

One evening, during a gathering with various cousins and other relatives in Aleppo, I tried to explain about Rexville. My relatives were amazed. The younger ones are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, so at least they understood the idea of a web-based community, but the older ones were greatly confused! " You mean you've never met these people in person?"... Well, no, except for Andrea... "Oh, so she's your friend and introduced you to these people who are her friends?"... Well, she is my friend, but I met her through the blog as well... "And you mostly discuss the puzzle? What do you find to discuss?"... You'd be surprised!... "And they're all just being nice to you, just to be nice?"... Well, yes, they're a wonderful bunch of people!... "Americans are amazing!"

I never take for granted the community that Rex has created-- I find it fascinating. But my efforts at depicting it to my relatives highlighted for me what a truly remarkable phenomenon it represents. It was hard to explain how, starting from the shared experience of solving a given puzzle and then reading Rex's thoughts about it, emerged a mesh of interconnections, an intellectual and social bond amongst virtual strangers. A bond that seems so ephemeral and yet managed to reach me half way around the world, and lift my spirits in one of my darkest moments.


Elaine said...

This is very touching, and also heart-rending, to know that your father must linger in a sad condition. You were indeed in many thoughts in past weeks.
I find that people so often are eager to make need only be open. (I am just now thinking of a Somali taxi driver in Atlanta, Yusuf, who picked me up after my final visit with my dying father. What a conversation we had! He remains in my prayers.)

We are glad you are back.
I am adding your father to my prayers.

Bill from NJ said...

Welcome back, Foodie!! To a lessor extent, I am familiar with the best wishes of this community as when I was forced by own health issues to quit posting on a regular basis a year ago you and a lot of folks at what you quaintly call Rexville reached out to me with their own best wishes which heartened me to no end.

Again, welcome home.

PlantieBea said...

Beautiful post Foodie. It is truly remarkable that a group of people can be gathered under one patchwork quilt that is Rexville. I too pray that you and your father find peace in such a difficult situation over such a distance. I am glad you are back.


Two Ponies said...

Thank you for sharing your ordeal. I would never have been so rude to ask directly. My heart goes out to you and your father.
Thank you also for sharing how you tried to explain this invisible community that Rex and the rest of us have formed. The concept is illusive to me as well.
Welcome home.

Ben said...

Foodie, I am not as frequent a Rexville habitué as many others are (e.g., was only faintly aware of the whole Evil Doug squabble before reading about it on your blog), but certainly share everyone's concern for you at this difficult time.

Clark said...

I am glad that you are back, but very sad about the situation you describe with your father. I hope that it is not as difficult and painful for him as it must seem to those of you who love him and see him in the condition he is in. May he find his way forward, and you yours.


Stan said...

Wonderful post, moving in its simplicity. I'm very sure you did everything that could be done to secure your father the best care possible.

All the best to your family, and (selfishly) glad to have you back and commenting.

foodie said...

Elaine, you are so right, people are eager to make connections, and find echoes of their experiences in the lives of others. Thank you for keeping my dad in your prayers!

Bill from NJ, your courage has always been an inspiration to me. I'm so glad you're back, commenting. It gives me hope.

PlantieBea, I like the image of a patchwork quilt : ) the elements seem so disparate, yet they all come together beautifully. Thank you for praying for my father's peace. That's what I wish most for him.

Two Ponies, I actually struggled a bit with how much to say about my dad's condition without getting into details-- mostly I wanted to explain why the support meant so much to me. I find it interesting that many people share important life changes on the blog-- birthdays, weddings, illnesses and deaths. My husband reads an astronomy blog and it's a very strong community, but they never get personal!

Ben, thank you! If you missed the Evil Doug days, then you've missed the days of our adolescence on the blog, when emotions where extreme and moods would swing : )

Clark, you are a wise man. This is exactly what I need to hope for-- that things may not be as hard for him as I imagine they are.

Stan, you're right. I did the best I could to set up a good care system for my dad. In the end,that was all I could do-- except for talking to him and reading to him as if he could hear me, and plastering family pictures all over his walls...
BTW, my husband's name is Stan, may be that's why I find myself often agreeing with you : )